MEDINAH, Illinois (AP) -The crowd roared as Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker tried to claw their way back into the match. Then Ian Poulter made a key putt, and gave out a little roar of his own.
It was the last roar of the morning.
"That's me being me, I guess," Poulter said. "Ryder Cup is like no other; you can't do that in any other situation."
Poulter and Justin Rose made sure the U.S. wouldn't take a lead out of the morning matches in the Ryder Cup, holding off Stricker and Woods in the alternate shot format Friday in a match they never trailed. Poulter helped seal the win with a 15-footer on the 16th hole that he punctuated with an exuberant stare in the direction of his playing partner.
It was the first win for Poulter over Woods in three tries and raised his Ryder Cup record to an impressive 9-3. Instead of being rewarded, though, the Englishman got the afternoon off.
"I would love to have played five matches but I realize that we are a team," Poulter said. "That team is very, very, very strong this year."
While Poulter sat, Woods went on to play in the afternoon despite a morning match marked by sprayed drives, bad irons and missed putts. Poulter has played enough golf to understand that, too.
"Is (U.S. captain) Davis Love going to sit Tiger Woods?" a smiling Poulter asked. "He's a brave man."
The Englishman, who's rarely afraid to express himself verbally or with his flashy outfits, played well all day in what for him was an understated European team uniform of dark pants and a lime green sweater. He and Rose took advantage of a tee shot by Stricker in the water in the second hole to take the lead and made four birdies against three bogeys in a format rarely played outside the Ryder Cup.
Their last birdie on the par-5 14th gave the Europeans a seemingly insurmountable 3-up lead, but Stricker and Woods answered with a birdie of their own to cut the lead to 2-up with three holes left as the crowd urged the last U.S. pairing of the day on at Medinah Country Club.
Poulter seemed to give the Americans another chance when he badly pushed his team's second shot on the 16th hole, and Woods followed with an iron onto the green. But after Rose chipped to 15 feet, Poulter sank the putt to halve the hole, prompting his mini-roar.
"That's why the Ryder Cup is so special, because you can hole that putt at the right time and it does mean that much, so your emotions just come out," Poulter said.
Poulter and Rose would go on to win the match by making par on the 17th hole, finishing off a morning that ended with the teams level at 2-2. European captain Jose Marie Olazabal sent Rose out in an afternoon pairing with Martin Kaymer, but left Poulter sitting on the bench.
"Ollie really wanted to kind of get everybody playing on Friday," Poulter said. "So four guys have got to change from the morning round and that's obviously going to be difficult. He said to me that he would like to keep me fresh going through obviously Saturday, Sunday."
That would probably mean that Poulter, playing in his fourth Ryder Cup, would go out in both morning and afternoon matches Saturday before returning for the Sunday singles.
"There's a really good chance I would say," Poulter said. "If I'm asked by Ollie to play, then I am going to go and play."
Poulter said earlier in the week that he welcomed both the challenge of the Ryder Cup and the noise made by fans rooting for the home team. That's not out of character for Poulter, who two years ago in Wales was on the practice range getting ready for his singles match with Matt Kuchar when he declared in a television interview, "I WILL deliver my point."
Poulter did just that, beating Kuchar in the most lopsided match of the day. Now he's also beaten Woods, and stretched his Ryder Cup streak to eight wins in his last nine matches as a standout for the European team.
"Tiger has been two of my three defeats in this Ryder Cup format, and Justin and I were pretty pumped to get out there and kind of get that point on the board," Poulter said.
Once again, the man his teammates call "The Postman" delivered.